Get Refreshed: Getting Fat, Meeting “Drayan!” and Making It Look So Easy

“Get Refreshed” is a weekly column by Billy Bugara covering all things digital in the music world. Refresh yourself here

Cover by IllustratorFile

Full Playlist (2021)

Kai Whiston: Drayan!

Conceptual undertakings in electronic music are a dime a dozen. Extraterrestrial motifs in electronic music are a dime a dozen. Abrasive instrumentals and distortion-tinged vocals in electronic music are… a dime a dozen. Drayan! – the latest mixtape from rising producer and performer Kai Whiston – holds all of these ideas as its main features, but its price is certainly not as easy to come upon. Throw any sense of commonality out of the window; all 9 of its tracks might as well be worth a million dollars each.

What we have here is a project that, from a spectacle, is akin to a standard release in this genre. But someone as ferociously passionate and talented as Whiston is simply could not play into these standards without transcending them entirely. The Lux Cache founder took the magnificent photographic work of Janaina Tschäpe’s “After The Rain” and effectively gave it its own score — telling the story of a hybrid alien figure as they proceed through the trials and tribulations of their adolescence. It’s through this concept alone where those aforementioned claims start to make themselves as apparent as can be; this is no ordinary “space age electronic album,” it’s far and beyond what that label could ever represent from the ground level. 

Of course, the music itself falls under the exact same mantle. Each track here is an exercise in masterful storytelling and electronic craftsmanship at their highest levels imaginable. The self-imposed “angst” that Whiston grants upon the titular character here is expertly translated in musical form by way of glitch-ridden vocals, sporadic percussion, and an overall feeling of tightness and tension alike within all of these instrumentals. It’s a living and breathing representation of a completely fictionalized main figure, which by extension, is compounded that much more when this character is even reachable via a hotline at +1-424-652-6927. 

With this level of effort, creative class, and musical brilliance all coming together at once, how could a project like this fall under any sort of tired-out trope within electronica? Someone like Whiston could never let that happen, nor do they even have the ability to, even. This is without question one of the year’s best conceptual offerings, and going even further, just one of its best full-length releases regardless of any label.

Tropes + Saturn: “cloak tattered”

I present to you now two adjacent musical behaviors: “biting swag” and “incorporating style.” The former act’s connotation is, by any stretch of the imagination, as negative as can be. There’s no denying that. But what’s also impossible to deny is the latter act’s incredibly intriguing positive elements. Digicore as a collective scene has been criticized and appraised for both concepts, respectively; I’d like to believe it falls more so in the positive category. 

It’s hard to convince those who agree or disagree with my expressed viewpoint to believe the opposite, but if you find yourself sitting on the fence between the two, I have no doubts that Tropes and Saturn’s latest collaborative single “cloak tattered” will sway you my way. 

These two exceptional performers go absolutely manic over this blisteringly dense beat from the always-reliable duo of elxnce and kurai, but anyone could’ve predicted that. But what’s most impressive about this track is just how ideally they both reflect that idea of incorporating each other’s styles into their own manner of artistry. 

It can even be argued that they do even more than that here; they go as far as completely trading each other’s respective approaches in full effect. Tropes’ flow sounds quite a lot like the ones featured on Saturn’s most signature offerings, and the hook its found within benefits from just how catchy and gripping that approach is. Then instead of following, well, their own lead, Saturn comes through with a gravelly-breathed and rough-to-its-core vocal style that sounds just like something Tropes would do on their hardest cuts. 

What a dynamic, right? It reflects that all-encompassing notion expressed from the outset here in a way that simply cannot be ignored. Oh, and the song itself is just so amazing too. I don’t think that should be lost in all of this. But when these two master craftsmen live up to such a title by doing what they did here, it’s hard not to spazz out and not make that point over and over again. Forgive me, I’m just so enamored.

Himera, unseelie, and Their Own Little World

I really wonder what trance fans some 10+ years ago would’ve thought of Himera. Not that they wouldn’t enjoy the work of this magnificent talent even back then (how could they not?), but given that they’ve taken the genre to perhaps its most unfathomably progressive levels yet, they more than likely would fail to even comprehend these boundless compositions that make up their discography thus far. I mean, I think they’d give you the most confusing look ever upon mentioning that one of their most essential instrumental choices comes in the form of tiny chimes… 

And speaking of those chimes, they’ve once again returned on Himera’s latest release with electronic music platform unseelie entitled “You Make It Look So Easy (S.M.I.L.E.Y).” Being paired with an incredibly entertaining interactive website, this single is more than just another impressive showcase from Himera themself, though that should go without saying at this point. 

Rather, when taking in the release’s overall art direction, website, and utter glamour of the music at hand, you get one of 2021’s most ambitious drops of the year… for one. Not only is it ambitious, but the resulting product in all regards listed above is as superb as anything released in the entire electronic music landscape this year, let alone just trance itself. It’s a release that’s meant to be taken in and engaged with for days on end; let’s just say their combined effort here – as well as the sheer engaging nature of what they came up with – makes that as apparent as can be. You could say they made it… so easy.

aldn, Fully Grown In The Greenhouse

Be it his age, demeanor, or overall musical approach, aldn has always flaunted a heightened level of “maturity” compared to his peers. The rising superstar is emphatically reserved. His place in the grander progressive pop scene is subdued for the most part, yet impactful upon any given release. The sound of his music follows suit in all respects, being just as soft and soothing as it is grandiose and submerging. Again, this is all held within the mantle of sincere maturity and grace — a notion that he has held true from his earliest entrance into the pop world all the way through the present day. 

His latest EP “greenhouse” collects, captures, and chronicles that exact sentiment in its fullest possible capacity. The project is equal parts a callback to some of his earliest work and an introduction to the most recent developments of this soon-to-be megastar’s career. That essence of maturity certainly rings true in EP’s latter category, as tracks like “happy ever after” and “dog eat dog” – which feature fellow pop standouts midwxst and renforshort, respectfully – exemplify just how fine-tuned his sound has become over time. But what’s even more telling is the fact that the former category – the older cuts like “glittr” and “precious” – still come off as matured in their own right, and thus fit quite well amongst the surrounding cast of new content here. 

Call it like it is: “greenhouse” is an all-too-ideal representation of everything aldn has brought, and will certainly continue to bring to the table as pop furthers deeper into its next great era. Defined by its youthful presence, the genre can at least find solace in the fact that it has an entirely matured leader at its forefront given what this project was able to prove by itself.

Zootzie: “Fat”

For someone with seemingly nothing left to prove, Zootzie sure loves proving himself that much more with each successive release. “Fat” is the latest entrance in what’s already widely known as one of the most influential, important, and downright integral discographies in contemporary online music as a whole, and as a standalone single, it’s not lacking in any of those departments in the slightest… as if there were any doubts that it could ever, anyway. 

Almost like clockwork, a new Zootzie release has yet again set the bar for others to reach for as time moves forward. His ever-entertaining songwriting and confoundingly beautiful mic presence has once again stunned us all here, creating just another wholly unique hip-hop environment that many will attempt to replicate, but none will come to be successful in doing so. This fact is helped that much more by the resounding instrumental presented by master-producers prblm and Twentywrld — the two coming together for a by-the-numbers presentation for the track’s first half, and a gorgeous beat switch during its second. 

It’s become too difficult over time to predict just what’s next for someone like Zootzie’s career. If any speculations can be made in this light, in any sort of definitive matter, they would have to land on the fact that this remarkably influential figure will, by all means, never stop influencing. That’s a given, sure, but singles like this also prove the following: not only will Zootzie never stop influencing, but he’ll never stop impressing just as much.

Nearly A Year Later, Delto Reflects On glaive’s “pissed”

Words by Delto

Before “pissed” was even made I was just getting into the whole digicore scene, like I just discovered osquinn, 100 gecs, kurtains, kuru, and others; I first heard glaive through slowsilver03. But overall, I still didn’t personally know anyone in the scene. I was in like, one server with pposture who asked me for a beat since I was sending previews to friends in there. That’s how I got to start on the beat for “pissed,” and it was the first time anyone even got on a beat that I made which is fucking insane.

The main synth melody you can hear throughout the beat was really inspired by funeral’s “ISIS.” He sings a really similar melody and it caught my ear so I kinda just incorporated that into a melody and from there I just started adding shit like the bells in the intro and the drums. At first, the beat was completely different. It was a lot slower and had proper 808s instead of the hard reese bass that’s in the finished song — so it definitely took a lot of different versions of the beat to get where it was since I was also really new to even making hyperpop. A lot of people have told me they love the drums which are honestly just really loud drums from random kits. I’m pretty sure I used the Dylan Brady reddit kit or whatever for it too, which I kind of regret but it ended up sounding good! 

After the beat was finished I sent it to pposture and he wanted glaive on it as a feature. I didn’t really know what was happening with the beat until he literally just messaged me and went “glaive recorded an entire song on it I’ll have him dm you.” So out of nowhere I get a DM from glaive saying he loved the beat and he showed me a snippet of the chorus while I was on vacation and it was fucking insane; like a minute ago I had no clue where this song was going and all of a sudden there’s this insanely good hook on my first ever placement. So after a while it drops and there’s just a massive reaction to it and I gain a shit ton of followers on my own SoundCloud and I’ve got people hitting me up and I’m introduced to all of these new artists. It was a really crazy experience just all of a sudden being included in something and I’m super thankful it happened because it kickstarted where I am now.

To this day I still have people hitting me up about that beat which is really funny because it’s one of the first hyperpop beats I ever made. I definitely think I could’ve improved a lot of my production. I’m just really glad I got another chance to work with glaive on “bastard” which I’m looking forward to!

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